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From Manchester to Melbourne

A ’platform of platforms’ lays at the centre of the city of Manchester project which facilitates access to thousands of data sets

The Oxford Road Corridor, a micocosm of the city, which acts as a test-bed for CityVerve
The Oxford Road Corridor, a micocosm of the city, which acts as a test-bed for CityVerve

CityVerve has always set out to be a smart city demonstrator that thinks about the bigger picture with its aim to create solutions that could be scaled up or down for cities and communities wherever they are.


The CityVerve consortium brings together 21 organisations including Manchester City Council, Manchester Science Partnerships, the University of Manchester, Cisco, BT and other technology players including SMEs. The project is also backed by Government and Innovate UK.


It has been keen to involve many others though, with the consultation announced this week on digital solutions that could address one or more issues raised in the City Centre Review the latest in its call for new ideas to make Manchester smarter.


In June, it announced the winners of an innovation challenge for 11-13-year-olds, which encouraged young people to apply their STEM skills and digital thinking to city problems. The winners, Manchester Grammar School, came up with an idea entitled Vision which encourages citizens to swap cars for public transport in exchange for redeemable rewards called Visbits in a network of local shops.


CityVerve was established in July 2016 and is halfway through its two-year remit. It focuses on four key areas of health and social care, energy and environment, travel and transport, culture and public realm and has been building use cases in each of these areas.


A year into its mission, Nick Chrissos, project director and head of innovation technology, UK and Ireland at Cisco Systems, which is the lead industrial partner, talks to SmartCitiesWorld about the progress that has been made so far.


How are the use cases progressing in Cityverve’s four key areas?


The first CityVerve deployment was made in October last year, with Asset Mapping and Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP) collaborating to connect the biomedical centre of excellence, Citylabs 1.0, to the Internet of Things. Since then, CityVerve is receiving a constant stream of data from the heating, cooling and ventilation systems within the centre, which is already helping to make Citylabs 1.0 more efficient in terms of energy use and maintenance costs.


Similarly, in December 2016 SPICA deployed its Devicepoint for Healthy Water into 10 buildings along Oxford Road Corridor. The water system monitoring solution helps to ensure water quality by feeding real-time data readings into the CityVerve dashboard, allowing cost savings, better accuracy, and a proactive approach to tackling a widespread potential health risk.


These are however just the start of what CityVerve hopes to achieve. As of May 2017, the use case development and validation for CityVerve was completed. This phase assessed all potential deployments against a stringent criteria including degree of innovation, genuine need for the issue it is resolving and justification for investment.


We are on target to be able to deliver a number of deployments in the upcoming months along the Oxford Road corridor, including talkative bus systems, smart sensing trams, air quality management and the gamifying of health and fitness.


What have been CityVerve’s other major achievements to date?


Creating CityVerve’s "platform of platforms" is one of our key achievements from technical perspective. It allows us to not only facilitate access to thousands of data sets and actuators, but to also automate the access control, the commercialisation of data and the procurement of services.


By connecting data from across the project we are creating cross-theme solutions, in areas including transport, health and the environment. These solutions look to achieve a number of aims, ranging from cost cutting and process efficiencies to providing new services to enhance the lives of Manchester citizens.


As part of the project, Sparta Digital, has been working with Manchester Metropolitan University to present a hidden, digital exhibition prepared by the University’s students. The exhibition, which includes the Manchester Plinth and other augmented reality (AR) art experiences, commenced in All Saints Park on 8 June.

Art school students designed digital versions of artefacts chosen from MMU Special Collections – featuring some of the finest examples of the arts and crafts movement in Britain – which users can view via an AR digital overlay if they download the Buzzin app and open their camera. The exhibition will give visitors the ability to interact with art and cultural pieces in an entirely new way. The Manchester Plinth launched on 29 June and is located within the centre of the park.


Additionally, as part of the CityVerve project, FutureEverything is unveiling a new art commission by emerging artist Naho Matsuda for CityVerve, titled every thing every time. The commission uses Internet of Things technology, drawing from existing open datasets, as well as new data deployed by CityVerve, to gather various data streams from sensors measuring weather, traffic and travel.


The datasets will be translated into words, poetic phrases which together offer a glimpse into the ubiquity of technology in urban space.


In addition, in December Ordnance Survey (OS) started collecting geospatial data from the Oxford Road corridor as part of the CityVerve project with the aim of stimulating innovation that will lead to better services for residents, visitors and business. So far, the precise location of more than 40,000 individual street assets housed within the Corridor has been noted. OS is giving each of these street assets, such as street lamps and benches, their own unique code and a detailed set of information that is specific to them.


Further down the line, we’ll be able to make some of this information available to other innovators in the area who want to develop new services and solutions to be used by the people living and working in the area.


How confident are you of achieving everything you set out to by 2018 and that achievements can be scaled up from a pilot and used as a blueprint for other cities?


We acknowledge that CityVerve is undoubtedly an ambitious project. It must not be forgotten that CityVerve is a smart city demonstrator for the UK, and ultimately a test-bed of ideas to show what can be done when you apply smart technology to a city, and also what doesn’t work in practice. The project will therefore evolve as we deploy use cases, identifying learnings and new opportunities for businesses and citizens.


A key success indicator for CityVerve is project’s replicability. As we are building something that is replicable, scalable and sustainable, the challenge here would be to measure the long-term impact the project is going to have on the city and its citizens. Consequently, the project timeline also factors in time to measure the impact of deployments, which is being assessed on an ongoing basis.


Our aim to build a blueprint for other cities around the world to adopt still remains, and we are confident that the deployments we are making will applicable to communities from Manchester to Melbourne.


If you like this, you might be interested in reading the following:


Call for ideas to improve Manchester

Aim is to initially identify a number of technological needs for small-scale demonstration pilots



The true value of IoT

Spica Technologies is introducing three new solutions into the Manchester CityVerve project, which will bring real benefits to the community



Asset mapping connects first building for UK’s CityVerve initiative to the IoT

The Citylabs biomedical centre is the first of nine buildings within Manchester’s Innovation District that will be connected over the next two years




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